January 31st, 2009


Netbooks have to work a little harder to impress me these days

Today I am mostly buried under a stack of netbooks, starting with the LG version of the MSI Wind. Everyone tells me the Wind a good netbook and the LG a good version of it. Mmmmm. I like the idea of built-in 3G; alas, it isn't working with my 3G SIM, even after I've deleted the profiles left by the last reviewer (either K or P, going by the profile names or the User folder: hint to PRs everywhere - use the restore disc to put the machine you are sending out for review to out of the box status (and check headsets for earwax)). Also, OpenOffice Writer: I'd forgotten how much I hate that it has Clippy popping up as a lightbulb. So far, not my favourite keyboard ever (that's still the HP, which is waiting for me at the bottom of the pile). And built-in wireless management software that only supports WEP and not WPA? How very 2005...  

Netbook notings: TBU

This is the Dell Mini 9 which has a keyboard that I liked before and still like. It is surprisingly accurate even though it feels cramped and I am typing at full speed without making any mistakes so far; it’s a matter of personal preference and you don’t get a separate row of function keys - and the mapped function keys don’t include my favourite F12 for Save As - but given that this is a 9” model rather than a 10” I almost prefer this to the Wind derivatives. With the Vodafone-bundled version, the 3G works seamlessly too - click the icon, click Connect, choose the automatic settings and - post to LJ. If only Works wasn’t so obnoxious and the comprehensive3 but insistent Dell Webcam tool wasn’t so insistent. Oh, and here is the Vodafone connection software popping up to search for updates but not find any: why does any software developer think it’s acceptable to jump in front of the window I’m actively typing in to do what could have been done without ever coming to my notice unless there was an update to select. It’s not as if you remembered to give me the *option* of searching.

This is the keyboard on the LG, an MSI Wind derivative that comes bundled with 3G.
It is far wider than the Dell Mini 9 and it does feel a litlte more exansive and comfortable to type on, and it has a full set of real function keys, all the way up to F12. But the wrist wrest is less comfortable, the trackpad doesn't match the aspect ratio of the screen – or even the aspec t ratio of a norrmal notebook screen, the tiny single button is really too thin for comfort and I am making more typing mistakes than on the Dell. And this is with a 10” case to stretch out in. The 10” Dell Mini 10 makes much better use of the same space...

This is the Toshiba NB100 nebook, a netbook that looks like a notebook that shrank in the wash. It has almost every key you’d expect; you get # and ¬ and Alt Group and a right mouse key, but no second Ctrl key which is arguably more useful. Lke the Mni 9, the keys are small;they are close together and they’re not curved or angled to keep your fingers centred, but they do have a nice smoth action and a fair amount of travel for so thin and light a machine. If you’ve used any of the Portege R series or the old Portege 2000, everything from the BIOS to the utlities to the keyboard feel to indicator lights for battery and wireless status will be very familiar and the laptop styling looks rather cute minituarised, like a toy car. These 9” machines are so much more portable than even a 10” netbook, but I’m not sure I’d want to write five thousand words on one.

In other news, I still haven’t managed to get the LG to connect to 3G and I’m on my second Vodafone SIM.This wouldn’t be a problem if you bought it, as it should come pre-set up for the contract IM you choose. And while I’m at it, I appreciate that security software needs to update itself as soon as you go online in order to protect you against the latest threats, but when I get a new machine out of the box I want to play around with it,not immediately be forced to reboot by McAfee.

this is the Fujistu Simens Amilo, whihc has no copy o Office, Works or OpenOffice to test the keybord with, not even a trial version. But as the keyboard is very small I'm not sure how much testing i want to do on it. I o lik the tapred ide buttons on the track pas - they cut off at the bottom which somehow feels good even thouh it reduces the surface area to find them with my fingers. the keyboard looks ientical to the Toshiba, but does not hve the same action - it does not hve as much travel and the keys have less rebound and feel 'stickier'. The sme full set of keys? no - insea o the right-mouse key on the bottom right there is the \ key, which on the Toshiba is function on the z key; I'd rather have e real / key for network mappings, but I'd rather sacrifice Alt Gr than right mouse - but with the trackpad so close to the keybaord would I ever use he right mouse duplicate? The keybord on the Amilo looks almost identical to the Toshiba NB100 but the feeland the typing comfot is so very different that they can't actuly be the same part. the case is a little larger - not as much as a quarter of an inch - but because the milo seems to ant to pull backwards (the battery seems to unbalance it), it's not as comfortable to type on. I ned to adjust the trackpad; it's the usual Synaptics, with scroll zones but not the chiral scroll I liked on the Samsung and Lenovo netbooks, but it seems to jump about a lot as I work.

this is the Toshiba NB100 keyboard again for comparison and even though the keys are the same size and position as on the Fujitsu and the cse is actually a few millimetres smaller, it fels more comfortable to type on - the action is comletely different and somehow my hands hang off the sides less.. i am still making the odd typo but significantly fewer than on the Ailo. Personally, 9" isn't really big enough for me ;-)